Ahh, to be a Crawley — if even for just a night or two.
“Downton Abbey” fans recognize Newport, R.I., for what it really is: Where Lady Grantham’s mother lives.
And it makes sense why Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) would have a mansion — well, one of her mansions — in the stylish port town where moneyed Gilded Age socialites and scions, from Astors to Vanderbilts, summered in their “cottages.”
Whether you’re a hard-core fan of the PBS period drama or wouldn’t know Lady Mary from Cousin Matthew, you can vacation a la Crawley by taking a holiday at one of Newport’s Downton Abbey-esque mansion-cum-hotels. You won’t want to leave the estate grounds. Sit back, relax, and don’t lift a gloved finger.
With stunning oceans views, dress-for-the-occasion dinners, and butlers at-the-ready, the romantic Chanler at Cliff Walk is exactly where Lord and Lady Grantham would stay if they were to visit America.
Newport’s parasol-worthy Cliff Walk is a winding, 3.5-mile oceanside trail, lined with stately mansions. The Chanler, the only hotel on the walk, is a circa-1873 mansion originally built as a summer home for New York congressman and lawyer John Winthrop Chanler and his wife, Margaret Astor Ward, great-granddaughter of millionaire John Jacob Astor.
The mansion-by-the-sea sits on five acres of manicured lawns and gardens, brimming with 150 varieties of flower. Twenty period-style rooms and private suites blend Downton-era style with modern amenitiessuch as Wi-Fi, heated bathroom tiles, and flat-panel TVs in the bathroom to watch your favorite movie — or, perhaps, your favorite British period drama? — while you soak in a tub-for-two with jacuzzi jets.
But don’t you dare draw that bath yourself. A “bath butler” will draw it for you and your sweetheart, complete with rose petals, thick towels and robes, candles, and champagne ($50). Your “beach butler” will chauffeur you from the mansion to a Newport beach in the hotel car, setting up your chairs and umbrellas, and packing your picnic lunch. Sandwiches, fresh-baked cookies, chips, and fresh fruit are typical fare ($150).
After a dip in the ocean, relax with your novel or sketchbook on the lawn until it’s time to dress for dinner. You need not call for a valet or ladies’ maid, but ties and eveningwear are encouraged at the mansion’s swanky The Spiced Pear.
Start with foie gras and oysters, then go for the prime beef sirloin with char-grilled prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, or choose the nine-course Gourmand menu, a chef’s selection of courses, each paired with wine.
THE CHANLER AT CLIFF WALK117 Memorial Blvd. 401-847-1300, the
Well, that’s where the Astors summered. As for the Vanderbilts? That would be the Vanderbilt Grace.
The boutique hotel, a stone’s throw from Newport’s waterfront, was originally a cottage built for Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt in 1909. It now houses 33 rooms, including 29 luxury suites, a spa and fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, and two restaurants.
Breakfast in bed with eggs Vanderbilt and Chantilly cream waffles. Take afternoon tea in the sunlit conservatory, where tea includes delicate finger sandwiches, warm crumpets, and scones topped with fresh cream.
Afterward, play billiards or test the turquoise waters of the elegant indoor swimming pool, surrounded by stately white columns, until its time to dress for dinner at Muse.
Fare at the mansion’s restaurant includes morel and fiddlehead gratin, grilled watermelon salad, seared lamb, and hand-cut pappardelle pasta with pesto cream and crumbled feta. For dessert? Try the champagne soufflé with mint ice cream, orange anglaise, and pineapple compote.
You can also shimmy like Cousin Rose with live jazz every Wednesday evening at Muse. On Monday evenings, guests may don cocktail attire for rosé on the mansion roof deck overlooking Newport Harbor.
VANDERBILT GRACE 41 Mary St. 401-846-6200, gracehotels.com/vanderbilt
Castle Hill Inn is, almost literally, a castle on a hill. The stately single-shingle mansion sits on an outcrop of rocky peninsula with a stunning view of the entrance to Narragansett Bay.
Marine biologist and naturalist Alexander Agassiz commissioned Castle Hill in 1874 to keep an eye on the rolling Atlantic. Almost straight from a “Downton Abbey” plot line, the mansion housed naval officers while functioning as an impromptu base during World War II. Today, you can stay in one of the luxury hotel’s 33 rooms, including beach cottages, harbor houses, and beach houses.
Sunbathe on Grace Kelly Beach, a tiny, rocky cove where the ’50s screen star retreated while filming “High Society,” her last movie before she married Monaco’s Prince Ranier III in 1956.
The cove is too rocky to swim, so for an ocean dip, head to the mansion’s private sandy beach, complete with chairs, umbrellas, towels, and seaside food and beverage service.
Breakfast al fresco on eggs Benedict and Maine lobster hash at The Lawn. Dress for dinner at The Dining Room, where three-, four-, or six-course dinners are paired with wines. The chef’s tasting menu changes frequently, but slow-poached duck egg and bacon-wrapped wild boar loin are par for the course.
CASTLE HILL INN590 Ocean Drive. 401-849-3800, castlehillinn.com
OceanCliff is a circa 1892 mansion with an ocean view, set on 10 rolling acres. Because it’s a popular — and stunning— wedding destination, don’t bank on a quiet evening. (65 Ridge Road, 401-619-7925, newportexperience.com ) The Cliffside Inn is a proud-looking restored circa 1876 manor house built for Maryland Governor Thomas Swann. Now an upscale bed-and-breakfast, offering 16 rooms and suites, which might include four-post beds, fireplaces, and Oriental rugs to make for a Downton-esque experience. Breakfast on the veranda, and in the evening, enjoy wine and hors d’ oeuvres fireside. (2 Seaview Ave., 401-847-1811. cliffsideinn.com )
And while it was never a private home, it’s worth mentioning The Hotel Viking, a lavish hotel built during the Jazz Age — the type of place Lady Sybil might’ve stayed. There’s an indoor pool, spa, fitness center, rooftop bar, and fine dining at One Bellevue, where tea service includes assorted tea sandwiches, scones, breads, and chocolate truffles. (1 Bellevue Ave., 401-847-3300, hotelviking.com)Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley